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For water is the basis of life

A merchant's desire is not of glory, but of gain; not of public wealth, but of private emolument; he is therefore rarely to be consulted about war and peace, or any designs of wide extent and distant consequence. -- Samuel Johnson, from Taxation No Tyranny

It is to be feared that the science of over-reaching is too closely-connected with lucrative commerce. There are clases of men who do little less than profess it, and who are scarcefly ashamed, when they are detected in imposture -- again Johnson

Friends and readers,

Ordinary people and the earth itself, its natural resources, have had a victory, which, even if temporary (the Trump administration could reverse), must be celebrated. We have had some progress during the years of the Obama presidency, but much may be overturned as well as the basis of FDR's new deal (social security) and LFJ's life-saving Medicare. I assure whoever reads this I am not into false celebrations.


Cannon Ball, North Dakota -- let's remember it's now very cold in North Dakota

The Standing Rock tribe has won.  The US Army corps of engineers denied an easement that would allow the pipline to cross beneath Lake Oahe, threatening the water supply of the Standing Rock reservation just downstream.  For months of the Standing Rock people, multiple native American tribes, and many other groups, now reinforced by a Veterans' group, put their bodies on the line -- and they have faced attack dogs, pepper spraying, hosing, rubber and real bullets; arrests, warants out for felonies which are a modern way of nullifying our right to assemble and protest peacefully. This kind of courage emerges from desperation and having no other recourse to stop this wholescale violation. A group of US Veterans had just joined them, saying they would encircle the Native Americans to protect them.

The Standing Rock Sioux are determined to prevent 1) the possible and even probably pollution of the Missouri River, central source of water for millions of people; and 2) the destruction of the Standing Rock people's burial sites, which by treaty, is land belonging to them, and part of the religious aspect of their community life. See Amy Goodman's full interview of the people involved yesterday: DemocracyNow.org

As a good friend on a small Yahoo list I moderate (focused on Anthony Trollope and 19th century literature and culture) wrote:

The victory today may be only temporary, but this would not have happened without the courage, determination and solidarity of the various tribes, environment groups, veterans groups, and people like us. That petition we signed was a very small contribution, but it helped build the climate of opposition.

A clear description of what this is about: for now it's halted. I've read the company that has fought so aggressively (gotten on its side major agencies, newspapers) to build this pipeland has said the court's decision does not stop them from going ahead. i've read that Trump has interests in companies that stand to gain profit from this pipeline and will give the "green light" to this and all other pipelines..

The inference: we must fight for say social security and medicare, decent treatment to enable disabled people to live fulfilled independent lives. We can sometimes win.

More widely; the important of keeping up the struggle not to allow wanton polluing of our atmosphere and food (causing cancer pandemonics). Year ago now Izzy and I saw an important film where a private corporation attempted to privatize the water supply in Bolivia and cut off a group of Indians from any water unless they pay for it: Even the Rain. The people's protests managed to stop this wholescale theft of necessity of life but their city is ruined, and we see the cost to individuals is high. Gasland is another movie about this problem of theft of natural resources of the earth people depend upon suddenly privatized and then polluted.


A still from Even the Rain

More recently we've seen how the waters of Flint, Michigan were polluted to "save" tax money. I've been in communities where the local water is not drinkable and people are forced to buy water in great plastic jugs.

More years ago than I like to (or can) remember I read with several classes of students over a few years John McPhee's The Control of Nature: the course was Advanced Composition in the Natural Sciences and Technology and read McPhee's book. It contains a long section on aquifers that large cities depend upon for their water supply, and how easy it is to destroy them. This and other books by McPhee seems apolitical because he concentrates on explaining how natural phenomena in a given region have emerged over centuries, and problems people have today in managing the resources that come with the phenomena. He usually develops a story out of a semi-ironic problem local people are having controlling something that is interfering with their middle class way of life. But the inferences taken away enable a reader to understand what these various struggles with multinational corporations out to be a huge profit for the investors and company members are about.


From the latest edition of McPhee's Pine Barrens: a favorite for me for summer reading with science students.


Miss Drake

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